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April 2009

Toshiko Akiyoshi & Lew Tabackin
Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin Big Band
Mosaic Records

While pianist-arranger-composer Toshiko Akiyoshi headed a fine big band in New York after moving cross-country in 1982, the orchestra that she led in Los Angeles in the 1970s was arguably her greatest accomplishment. The three-CD Mosaic Select set Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin Big Band collects all of the music originally released on the RCA albums Kogun, Long Yellow Road, Tales of a Courtesan, Insights, and March of the Tadpoles. With such major players as Akiyoshi’s husband Lew Tabackin on tenor and flute, trumpeters Bobby Shew and Don Rader, trombonist Britt Woodman and altoist Gary Foster among the many soloists in the all-star band, the orchestra could swing as hard as any of its competitors. In addition to the more boppish pieces, Akiyoshi often wrote works that displayed her Japanese heritage, utilizing Eastern harmonies and instruments along with her husband’s flute. Many of the highpoints of her career are on this perfectly conceived Mosaic release.

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Ken Franckling

Toshiko Akiyoshi and Lew Tabackin, Newport Jazz at Saratoga,

Originally published in April 2009
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